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New Insights about Settlement in Iceland

Traditionally, the Age of Settlement on Iceland is thought to start around 874 CE. Only, it seems people came and lived on Iceland long before this time.

Arni Thorgilsson writes in his Íslendingabók that the settlement of Iceland begins around 870. The Landnámabók, sometimes also believed to be written by Arni, puts the year at 874 (see VSNR Publications). It is generally accepted that the Age of Settlement starts in the last quarter of the ninth century. But archaeological excavations are now turning this theory on its head.

The latest update on excavations in Stöðvarfjörður is published in Iceland Review. Archaeologists have been working in Stöð since 2015. Among the discoveries is a large longhouse dating back to c. 860-870. Among the objects found here are beads and Roman and Arabic coins. More intriguingly, though, is that the longhouse is built on an older house that probably dates back to c. 800. This begs the question if it is perhaps part of a seasonal camp for hunting.

Other, similar sites found in Reykjavík and Hafnir also date back to the early ninth century (see Lost Viking Settlements: Iceland, Part 1). Therefore, the idea that ‘only Irish hermits’ lived in Iceland before 874 is slowly but steadily changing. More likely, hunters lived here, probably, on a seasonal basis, to hunt for walrus tusks among other things.

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